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Taylor, Dunn square off


Sunday's game will feature a showdown of two former rival running backs who are each pursuing membership in football's most elite rushing club.

"He deserves everything he's gotten to this point and I'm sure he's not going to stop there," Jaguars running back Fred Taylor said of the Falcons' Warrick Dunn.

Taylor is just 471 yards shy of 10,000 yards rushing in his career, and Dunn is just 16 yards behind Taylor. The Taylor-Dunn showdown, of course, gives Sunday's game at Jacksonville Municipal Stadium a little extra flavor.

"I respect Warrick. I've always admired his game. Actually, I committed to Florida State but I changed my mind when I saw him play," Taylor said.

Following a record-setting career at Florida State, Dunn was made the 12th pick of the 1997 draft by the Tampa Bay Bucs. The Jaguars selected Taylor the following year with the ninth pick of the draft.

The two backs squared off in the 1998 season, each topping the 100-yard rushing mark. Taylor rushed for 128 yards and three touchdowns, one of which was the game-winner, a 70-yard dandy. Dunn rushed for 107 yards on a mere 16 carries.

"Of course, I'd like to," Taylor said when asked if he wants to reach 10,000 yards before Dunn does. "The thing is that both of us get there. That's what matters most. In this league, one play, who knows?

"It's not just about me and Warrick. We both need a win real bad," Taylor added.

Taylor and Dunn are expected to be critical players in a game between teams coming off disappointing season-openers. The Jaguars were manhandled by the Tennessee Titans, 13-10. The Falcons were squashed by lightly-regarded Minnesota, 24-3.

A new name has surfaced on the offensive side of the ball for the Jaguars. On his weekly radio show, Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio suggested that star cornerback Rashean Mathis may see some playing time at wide receiver this Sunday.

"I haven't heard," Mathis said with a smile following practice on Wednesday.

Mathis had 31 interceptions in his career at Bethune-Cookman. He had a career-high eight interceptions last season, made a leaping interception of a Vince Young pass last Sunday and now has 21 interceptions in his five-year pro career.

"I love catching the ball. If I can help in any situation, I'd be happy to do that, whether it's on offense or special teams," Mathis said.

Mathis is generally considered to be the team's best athlete. He is certainly one of the Jaguars' fastest players and it's possible he has the best hands on the team.

"Every defensive back thinks he's a receiver. I try to catch everything thrown my way," Mathis said.

In Mathis' case, the old adage, that if defensive backs could catch they'd be wide receivers, doesn't apply. He can catch and the Jaguars would seem to be desperate for a lift at the wide receiver position.

"I know how my hands are. There are a lot of receivers who can't catch," Mathis said playfully. "Defensive backs are the best athletes on the field. I always joke with the receivers that I can catch better than they can."

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